Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why I Didn't One-Click Today

One-click. It's a way of life.

The other day a student announced his intention to buy A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book on his Kindle. We were floored. Was that thing a Kindle? No, it was an iPhone. It was going to be quite a fast one-click: not free postage but immediate transfer. "Start reading in less than a minute," he says.

"Traitor!" another student called, shorthand for concern about the survival of independent bookstores.

Some of us don't recognize e-reader devices when we see them. I have a Sony Reader, but it doesn't go out in public. A Kindle was pointed out to me in a coffeehouse once. Those things are ticking bombs: allowing you to shop AWAY from your computer, for God's sake.

That doesn't mean I'm not a fanatical online browser, though. The one-click--which I'm quite fond of--is the online shopper's bliss or Achilles' heel. It can be a heady feeling to find a book you want and then immediately click on it and buy it. If you're a regular at Amazon, you may find yourself not just one-clicking till you hit the $25 mark that wins you free shipping, but paying an extra $75 a year to get free two-day shipping. Now I'm not sure how this $75-a-year thing works, but if you buy hundreds of books or spend $750 a year (guessing), it probably evens out.

I didn't one-click on any novels today, AND I'M SO PROUD. I've been reading a Golden Age Detective novel, and the online bookstores haven't found out yet, so they haven't been pushing Christie, Sayers, and the rest. I kind of feel relieved.

Abebooks, Alibris, and Amazon are seductive. They not only invite you to one-click, but they amuse you with recommendations that are sometimes apt and sometimes way off-base. It's a positive land of enchantment up there. You would never want a bookstore clerk to be as in-your face as the recommendation icons on the websites. Buy Marcel Theroux's Far North and suddenly Wolf Hall, Lark & Termite, and Let the Great World Spin appear on the screen. These books have all been nominated for or won awards. It's a clever system, but sometimes it can go astray. Buy a vampire book and every vampire book ever published shows up on the screen. Four Twilight books later, it's Sookie Stackhouse and I Am Legend.



Laura said...

I turned off the one-click on my iPod Touch (same as iPhone). Too easy to *accidentally* buy something. I like to have to verify my purchase at least three times. That not only evades mistakes but makes you think whether you really need that impulse purchase or not...

Frisbee said...

That sounds like a very good idea. It is so very easy to get carried away. I'll turn off my one-click, too. Thanks for the suggestion!

Vintage Reading said...

Yup, in-your-fact book-pushing really puts you off. I'm sick of the sight of Wolf Hall everywhere I look and I wouldn't read it even if somebody gave me a free copy!

Frisbee said...

It certainly is popular. It just won The National Book Critics Circle Award, too. I honestly feel a little dismayed. A long historical novel about Cromwell sounds unappealing, even though Mantel is a good writer. I know it's a LITERARY historical novel, but still...

I haven't one-clicked on that yet! :)